A common sight on trees and bushes in summer months, the Arabian cicada (Platypleura arabica) is also well known throughout its range for the loud, continuous ‘singing’ of the males (2). This relatively large, robust insect has a brown body with lighter bars of colour at the base of the wings, which are transparent (3), with dark veins. Like other cicadas, the Arabian cicada has sucking mouthparts, and the rostrum (the projecting part at the front of the snout) originates from the underside of the rear of the head, rather than from the front as in ‘true’ bugs (suborder Heteroptera) (4)(5). The antennae of cicadas are very short and end in a bristle, and the membranous forewings are held in a tent-like position over the body (4)(5), extending past the end of the abdomen. The first two segments of the abdomen are modified for sound production (4). The nymphs of the Arabian cicada have strong front legs, adapted for digging in soil (3).
The adult Arabian cicada emerges during the summer months, from April to August, when the males produce a loud, monotonous call to attract females (2)(3)(6)(7). These calls are produced by a pair of thin membranes within the abdomen, which are vibrated to produce a rapid train of pulses or clicks (4)(5). In some cicadas, air sacs in the abdomen amplify the sound (4). Interestingly, other members of this genus have been shown to be able to regulate their body temperature, which may allow the cicada to call at cooler times of day, or from perches which would not otherwise be suitable due to temperature constraints (8).
The Arabian cicada is reported to lay its eggs within plant tissues. The eggs hatch into nymphs, which may feed on roots in the soil (3), where the nymphs are likely to go through a number of developmental stages (4) over a period of up to two years, before emerging to undergo a final moult into the adult form (3). The adult Arabian cicada feeds on various tree species, using the specialised mouthparts to pierce the trunk and suck up the sap (4)(7).
Little information is available on the habitat preferences of the Arabian cicada, although adults are reported to occur on trees and bushes (2)(3)(6)(7), while the nymphs may live in soil (3). In some other members of this genus, males call from trunks and branches in the canopy (8).
The Arabian cicada is not known to face any significant threats, and it is described as a common species throughout the United Arab Emirates (2)(6). In some areas, it may potentially damage trees and crops (3).
There are no specific conservation measures currently in place for the Arabian cicada. However, surprisingly little information is available on this common insect, and so it may benefit from further research.
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In arthropods (crustaceans, insects and arachnids) the abdomen is the hind region of the body, which is usually segmented to a degree (but not visibly in most spiders).
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
In insects, referring to stages of growth, whereby the hard outer layer of the body (the exoskeleton) is shed and the body becomes larger.
Stage of insect development, similar in appearance to the adult but sexually immature and without wings. The adult form is reached via a series of moults and the wings develop externally as the nymph grows.
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